Fair Exchange: Can marketing people effectively market themselves?
by Erna George (@) I’ve been sitting through interviews recently and, as always, there have been highs and lows. Whether internal candidates or external, do marketing people know how important it is to market themselves? More importantly, do they know how to do this?
It was so frustrating as it was clear that many didn’t know how to tell their brand story to impact the interviewer’s decisions. It’s like a plumber with a constantly dripping tap at home. Why would you not use your skills for your own progression?! If a marketing person can’t market themselves, why should the interviewer have faith in their marketing skills? Understanding and articulating clearly your proposition or USP makes you stand out.
Qualifications and work experience
(Please note I am excluding appearance, which must be a key consideration as it’s the packaging for your brand). What gets you through the door is your qualifications, balanced with evidence of your work ethos. While today, regarding qualifications, it has become more common to have a post-graduate specialisation or even MBAs or students part way through an MBA, studies without application of these does make interviewers somewhat wary. Being able to show some work experience, be it waitressing or vac-work in a big conglomerate, shows your ethic towards hard work. Work experience shows you have practical understanding of the working world — building relationships, feeling a room, understanding a system.
While these are things of the good ol’ CV, often I start with such questions as this is where you should be most confident and fluent in the story of you. As the foundation of the story of you, it should set up your approach, your beliefs and provide a sense of fit with culture. Being able to express the highlights, development areas and strengths in a clear, succinct or compelling manner speaks volumes of your ability to tell brand or business ‘narratives’ in the workplace to influence stakeholders and team members. Do you have your elevator sales pitch about who you are, where you are from and what you offer — your brand story and the reason to believe?
Doing research about the business you are interviewing for is not a nice-to-have. Showing an application of knowledge to the organisation’s specific business scenario, brands and culture is a key way to market your ability. Not only does it make judging the candidates easier for the interviewer but, for you as the candidate, you learn if the organisation is right for you. Understanding the business’s approach to marketing and more about its brands will help you understand if you have the appetite for working there.
This sense-check is not about ‘sin’ industries (alcohol or cigarettes) clashing with values; it is about understanding you will flourish where you fit, find a stake for growth or find joy. Some people find the world of brands (no matter what the context) highly engaging, while others seek something more specific, be it something with purpose, a cool factor or something precise or ‘zen’. Be clear on what you want and how you will be able to make impact in this world; this makes you and what you want real. What will your stake be so that you are 100% engaged? Talking about brands in their context and, in particular. showing passion for the company’s brands might be the difference between a second interview and a regret. Showcasing what the organisation might expect or get from you offers it a view of the benefits to it for employing you.
These principles also apply to internal interviews. Yes, promotions or movements may happen as a result of displayed competence, and sometimes there is an interview.
Don’t approach this with less preparation than you would a new company interview. At various points in my career, the misguided confidence of some internal candidates have often surprised me — you cannot treat these interviews as fait accompli. Preparedness and effort show a hunger for the position and a respect for the organisation. There is even greater onus on you to know more about the brands, their financial performance and your thinking in relation to brands and the execution of their campaigns. Have examples ready of what you have achieved in the organisation, campaigns you have worked on and the teams you have led.
Give strong consideration to how can you show aspects of:
- Your financial understanding
- Passion for brands and how they work (strategic thinking)
- How you engage with internal and external stakeholders or partner agencies
Examples and solid knowledge leave no room for guessing about abilities, so prepare, prepare and prepare. Don’t underestimate your response to any question; it all builds the picture of you and the fit with the person the organisation already experiences. Beware of stretching reality, as inconsistency is very easy to identify if words, actions and CV don’t match. Consistency showcases what your truth or USP is — are you the strategic thinker, the creative executor, the analytical strategist? The business may then assess if what you have to offer is needed and how or where it best fits.
There’s a perception that marketing people are more vibrant and dynamic so, when someone doesn’t this mould, it does make some hesitate. We are thankfully beyond the days of not looking beyond the strict mould, so what will be of greater consequence is how you engage and how you speak of your journey. You must shape the way you tell the story to be an authentic reflection of what you have to offer.
It will take time to develop ‘Brand You’ but this is what will facilitate your career progression — leaving a clear vision of you, building your reputation and resulting in strong, positive references and testimonials. (Don’t forget how you build and profile yourself on social media, as cyber-checking is done — if not by HR. then by fellow employees)
- Uncover your elevator sales pitch — tell your story in a compelling way
- Book-smarts without some application won’t be enough — have examples at the ready
- Build consistency and become known for something specific and distinct
Lastly, remember that not every marketing position is good for you and what you offer, in the same way that you won’t be right for every position. And that’s okay. Find the right target audience, in the right place, and bowl them over with a well-articulated you.
After starting at Unilever in a classical marketing role, Erna George (@) explored the agency side of life, first as a partner at Fountainhead Design, followed by the manic and inspiring world of consultancy at Added Value. She has returned to client-side, leading the marketing team in the Cereals, Accompaniments & Baking Division at Pioneer Foods. Her monthly “Fair Exchange” column on MarkLives concerns business relationships and partnerships in marketing and brandland.